Book club plays chicken

Book is a "gong show, but funny"

Liz Anderson at Café Books.

The Café Books book club is meeting tomorrow, from 6 to 8 p.m., to re-live the hilarity of The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby.

Liz Anderson of Café Books said there’s still time to read the book, admitting she’s only just started it herself. But so far, she reports, “it’s laugh out loud.”

Anderson dove into the first chapters on the ferry back from Victoria, but couldn’t contain her outbursts and suffered looks from the other passengers.

“The book’s a gong show,” she laughed, “but it’s funny!”

Prudence, a broke and idealistic foodie from New York inherits her uncle’s farm on Vancouver Island, “so she drops everything and goes,” Anderson said.

She turns up at the farm, “and Woefield is a good name for it: It’s essentially a rock farm with one half-sheared sheep.”

The novel unfolds from the perspective of Prudence and three others who join together in an unlikely union with poor odds of success: A 70-year-old curmudgeonly farmhand who plays banjo, an agoraphobic and alcoholic neighbour, and an 11-year old poultry fancier who needs a place to store her prize-winning chickens.

“There are close to five or six book clubs in Rossland,” Anderson guessed, though she is not a member of any of them. They take turns hosting club meetings at their houses, so are limited by the available space and “it seems that they’re all quite full.”

Anderson was in a book club when she moved back to town a year ago, “but that one fell apart,” she said. Then she thought to herself while working the shelves and espresso counter of Café Books: “We’re a bookstore, why don’t we have a book club?”

“We’ve had two meetings so far,” she said. “They were great, and we have 25 people signed up.”

Usually about half the members turn up. “Not everyone can make it, not everyone’s read the book,” Anderson explained. “There’s no pressure. We’re pretty easy going.”

It’s easy to join in and Anderson said that sometimes people come who haven’t even read the book.

“You try to read it, anyway,” she said, “then we all get together and bring chips and brownies and other stuff to snack on, and we just start talking, and usually won’t stop until the shop closes up and everyone has to leave.

“The conversation takes a life of it’s own,” Anderson said. “You start it, and it rarely stops on its own.”

Club members discuss what they liked or didn’t like, a striking passage, the style of writing, characters, and impressions.

For Anderson, “the best books are when not everyone likes them, and you can argue a little bit.”

It’s hard to imagine controversy over the comic twists of The Poultry Collective, almost universally accepted as hilarious, but Anderson said, “there’s a possibility it’s too funny for people, some people like serious, heavy literature.”

At the end of each meeting, club members choose the next book — fun to do when surrounded by shelves of quality literature — and pick a date to meet again.

Contact the café at 362-5333 for more information.

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